“Rough Winds of Persecution Transformed into Winds of Propagation!”

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Feb 242019

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Rough Winds of Persecution Transformed into Winds of Propagation!” By:  Ron Woodrum

  Thomas Carlyle used to say that the easy, chatty optimism of Ralph Waldo Emerson maddened him. In his opinion “no really dark shadow had ever fallen across Emerson’s sheltered life”. He said that Emerson “seemed like a man who, standing well back from the least touch of spray from the storm, throws chatty observations about the beauty of the weather to a poor man battling for his life in huge waves that are beating upon him and threatening to sweep him away!” Perhaps Carlyle was right about Emerson, we cannot say. But personal experience in the marketplace of human existence tells us all that somewhere between sunrise and sunset, everyone will feel the harsh winds of opposition upon our faces. What is true of individuals is also true of the Church, at any given time in history. The Church had seen some opposition during the days of its infancy. If the world hated their Lord, they too would feel that animosity at some time or another, in some way or another. Jesus had promised them that. But during the early days, recorded in Luke’s narrative in the Book of Acts, those winds did not blow harshly at first. We read of the Church, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, penetrating the Graeco-Roman world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, turning it upside down, taking the Church from Jerusalem to Rome in only two decades! But as the Children of Israel found out-things can change in a New York minute. When a Pharaoh that knew not Joseph came to power, their position went from privileged to persecuted immediately. So with the Church. Beginning with Emperor Claudius and running through Diocletian, the Church faced the ever-increasing winds of persecution blowing their way all throughout the Roman Empire. This persecution would become so intense that it threatened the very existence of the Church. Many then, and now, question why the Sovereign God would allow such a thing to happen to His faithful people.

Frank W. Boreham, in his book Cliffs of Opal, explains the necessity of such suffering in order to impact the Roman world of that day with an even greater impact! He writes, “If Jesus, the Son of God, had died His bitter death on Calvary’s tree, and left it at that, would that have saved the world? Of course not! The world at large would have never heard of it. The tragic incident would have passed into oblivion within a year or two. Just another political execution off in a distant Roman Province. In order for that redeeming sacrifice might be made effective, and the world be saved by means of it, it was necessary for the Apostles to suffer and die proclaiming it, for the martyrs to lay down their lives defending it, for missionaries like Xavier, and Livingstone, and Patterson, and Williams, and Chalmers to seal it with their blood. That would be their testimony to its virtue. Every death on a foreign shore, every tear shed for the Gospel’s sake, every jibe or sneer patiently endured out of love for Christ, is an augmentation of the awful tragedy of Golgotha. It is the wonder of wonders that He who died upon that bitter tree to redeem mankind associates each of us with Himself in that Divine and sacrificial work!” A.T. Pierson, in his book The Bible and The Spiritual Life, explains how that God used such sacrifice and suffering on the part of His saints to impact them, and the world that witnessed their suffering, to reflect the glory and grace of their Crucified Savior to the World. He wrote, “God allows it in order to perfect His saints. He puts His precious metal into His crucible. But He watches it. His love is His thermometer, and He marks the exact degree of heat, not one instant’s unnecessary pang will He permit; as soon as the dross is released and He sees Himself reflected in them, the trial immediately ceases!” His martyrs all testified to His sustaining grace being sufficient for the moment. What an impact their witness had.

Soon the road of persecution led to the newly built Colosseum. It became the center of attention for the public display of The Sacrifice of Christ being magnified through the testimonies and deaths of His martyrs. Vance Havner, in his book Hearts Aflame, pays a fitting tribute to these courageous Christians. He writes, “If we had sat in the grandstands amidst the grandeur that was Rome we might have been deceived. For it was not the howling mob in the Colosseum that determined the course of history. Underground in the catacombs another force was at work. A handful of men and women who worshipped another King called Jesus, who had died and risen, and was coming back someday-here was the beginning of the Empire within the Empire, the Christians beneath the Caesars! They crept along the subterranean passageways and tunnels, among the tombs and caverns, hunted and persecuted as the scum of the earth. If we would have prowled the gloomy depths we might have come upon little companies singing, listening to the Gospel message, observing the Lord’s Supper. The verdict might have been this little group doesn’t stand a chance! But the Christian Underground upset the Caesars above ground. The Catacombs overcame the Colosseum…and put it out of business! That fellowship who loved Jesus more than they loved their own lives, who were in the world, but not of it, whose blood was the seed of the Church…were on fire with the passion that Roman swords could not kill, nor waters of the Mediterranean Sea could drown, nor the fierce flames of fire could destroy nor silence. Their blood was spilled so freely and often in that arena that when a traveler asked if he might take a relic with him, was told take a handful of sand from the Colosseum. It is all martyrs!”

Need we say more? That kind of devotion withstands the howling winds of persecution and shifts the direction back toward its source, transforming them into winds of propagation! Let those winds blow…world wide!

 Posted by at 1:57 pm


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Feb 172019


      There is an unusual quote, from a very unusual source, that God recently brought to my attention that describes our world today, both those inside and outside the Church, quite accurately. It describes our most destructive attitude that perpetrates and perpetuates our dilemma. It comes from Dante Alighieri. Who in the world is that Pastor? That is the full name of the famous Dante of Dante’s Inferno: The Divine Comedy. Few of us read his work anymore that describes the medieval view of Hell. While being given a tour of Hell Dante hears sighing, crying weeping, wailing and railing. He writes, “At first I wept at such wailing and lamentations…shrieks, yells, and groans. Whereupon I asked, ‘Master what is this I hear?’ ‘Who can these people be, so distraught with grief?’ He answered, ‘THE DISMAL COMPANY, OH WRETCHED SPIRITS THAT FIND THEIR RECOMPENSE DUE, WHOSE LIVES KNEW NEITHER PRAISE NOR INFAMY…WHO AGAINST GOD REBELLED NOT, NOR TO HIM WERE FAITHFUL, BUT ONLY TO SELF WERE TRUE!’ “They tell us the road to hell is paved with “good intentions”. The residence of hell is filled with “great regret”. The residents of hell will be eternally quoting the words of John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem-“For of all sad words of tongue or pen-the saddest are it might have been”. But hell is not the only place of regret. When we all get to heaven, and look back over the opportunities of our lives, that poem will also express the feelings of many of God’s saints too.

The great tragedy of our time is that we have chosen who and what will come first in our lives, and it is not God! It is ourselves. We come first. We live for ourselves. We are true to ourselves. We want to include God in our lives, on our terms. We have not rebelled against Him that much, but we have not been sold-out faithful to Him either. Our lives do not deserve praise neither infamy. What a tragedy! If we do not take specific action to put God first in our lives -the kind of action that Rick Warren made clear and popular in his book The Purpose Driven Life-we may find our lives lived only for ourselves, and making no impact for eternity. I am fond of a description from a nineteenth-century writer Van Wyck Brooks, who described his futile life, in his autobiography by saying that as he surveyed his life he concluded that his efforts had been sown in an environment where they could not grow and not even a furrow remained from where he had ploughed. His words are so descriptive of futility-it is as if he had been “ploughing the sea!” The great Irish Poet W. B. Yeats wrote in a similar vein in his memoir Reveries: “All life, weighed in the scale of my own life seems a preparation for something that never happens!” That is the tragedy of most of our Christian lives. We intend to put God first; to live a surrendered life; to witness and win others to Christ; to make an impact for Him; to do things that will be worthy of Him saying to us in that day-“Well done thou good and faithful servant“. But we have been “ploughing the sea” and can’t even retrace where we’ve been. Our lives…always preparing for impact for Jesus…but “nothing ever happens!”

Greg Levoy calls this the “common cold of the soul”. He says our lives are filled with “Sinful patterns of behavior that never get confronted and changed. Abilities and gifts that never get cultivated and deployed–until weeks become months, and months turn into years, and one day you’re looking back on a life of deep intimate, gut-wrenching honest conversations you never had; great bold prayers you never prayed; exhilarating risks you never took; sacrificial gifts you never gave; lives you never touched; and you’re sitting in a recliner with a shriveled soul and forgotten dreams, and you realize there was a world of desperate need, and a great God calling you to be part of something bigger than yourself-you see the person you could have become but did not; You never followed your calling; you never got out of the boat; if you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat. Most of us have never gotten out of the boat!”

Garrison Keillor, in a story called “A Day in the Life of Clarence Bunsen” tells of an older man who realizes that life has slipped away and his life has missed something. He goes to see Father Emil for advice and comes away empty. He goes back to a hill that overlooks his childhood hang-out at Lake Woebegone and watches kids playing and reflects on his life. He thinks to himself, “I wish I could be like that. I just seem to go through life with my eyes closed and my ears shut. People talk to me, and I don’t seem to hear them. Whole days go by, and I can’t remember what happened. The woman I’ve lived with for thirty-six years, if you asked me to describe her, I’d have to stop and think about it. It’s like I’ve lived half my life waiting for my life to begin, thinking it’s off somewhere in the future, and now I am thinking about death all the time. It’s time to live, time to wake up and do something!” Henry David Thoreau summarized what Clarence Bunsen might have been trying to say, when he said, “I did not wish to live what was not life…I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life!” We could take a tip from Pablo Picasso. He wrote, “When a man knows how to do something-he ceases to be a man when he stops doing it!” James put it this way, “He that knoweth to do good and doeth it not…to him it is sin!” (James 4:17). We need to take purpose-driven steps to avoid the “Dismal company-being only true to ourselves”. We need to quit “ploughing the sea” quit living life with good intentions “preparing for something that never happens!” Get over our “common colds of the soul” and “wake up and live that life of impact for Christ now!” “Do not live life that is not life-suck all the marrow out” and once we begin, “never stop doing it!” That is the path to an eternity with “No Regrets!”

 Posted by at 1:49 pm


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Feb 102019


In his book, The Brother’s Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky poignantly states, “The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man“. That battle involves recognizing truth-God’s truth. The devil is, and always has been, in the business of perverting God’s truth into a lie, and getting man to believe it, and thus choose the path of error and destruction. He is a master of deception and his lies are passing for truth quite successfully in our Post-Christian world. Paul warned us that in the last days we would be inundated with “doctrines of demons“( I Tim. 4:1), and that God would let the world “believe a lie, because they believed not the truth” (II Thes. 2:11). Man’s problem today is not knowing the truth, but “suppressing” and “rejecting” the truth in exchange for a lie. Dostoevsky warned about that too. He wrote, “Above all don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lies comes to the point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others, and having no respect he ceases to know love“. That I believe is a very accurate description of the very condition modern man finds himself in. David Roper, in his book A Beacon in the Darkness, hits the nail on the head, when he writes, “We live in a world of cosmic deceit, hidden agendas, treacherous motivations, illusions, and lies. And Satan is behind it all. His strategy is to deceive. His objective is to destroy. His shrewd cruel mind is behind the lies that buffet us all day long, the media messages that encourage us to ‘find ourselves’ in something other than the living God, to go for the gusto, but to leave the Savior out. The lie comes into the world in the guise of beauty and good, (our minds are repelled by ugliness and obvious evil), but the deceit inevitably sickens the soul and it begins to die. For when Satan has accomplished his purpose and separated men and women from God, what can they do but wither and die eternally?” That is why Isaiah warned, “Woe to them that call evil good, and good evil; that call darkness light, and light darkness” ( Isaiah 5:20). Denis deRougement, in a book entitled The Devil’s Share, clarifies the plight of our modern world with more clarity than anyone I have ever read. He says the problem today is compounded by the difference between a lie and a pure lie. This is what he says, “There are two ways of lying, as there are two ways of deceiving a customer. If a scale registers 15 ounces, you can say, ‘it is a pound’. Your lie will remain relative to an invariable measure of the true. If the customer checks it he can see that he is being robbed, and he knows by how much you are robbing him; a truth remains as a judge between you. But if you tamper with the scale itself, it is the criterion of the truth which is denatured; there is no longer any possible control. And little by little you will forget that you are cheating. You may even bet that you will exercise all your scruples in giving exact weight, perhaps by adding a few pinches for ‘good measure’, for the smile of the buyer and the satisfaction of your virtue. That is ‘pure lying’, the moment you falsify the scale of truth itself, all your virtues are at the service of evil and are accomplices in its contagion“. The devil has tampered with the scale. He has caused us to throw out the accurate scale of God’s inspired Word, and receive his counterfeit scale. When the standard is corrupted, even honorable people become agents of evil. They believe they are doing right when in fact what they are doing is dead wrong, and they unwittingly foist their wrong-doing on others. That is what has happened today. Satan has moved the parameters so that even ‘principled people’ have been brought into the service of evil. Their lack of a fixed reference point has led them into profound moral confusion and deep sense of insecurity. I saw a cartoon once depicting two people talking. One said to the other, “I still believe in evil-I just don’t know what qualifies!” People still believe in good and evil, it’s just that no one knows where the parameters are anymore-and that makes for a very dangerous and uncertain world! Black is white; white is black; up is down, and down is up; we are turned loose, without an anchor, of a raging sea helplessly tossed about by whichever way the cultural wind blows. We will end up destroyed on the rocks unless we turn back to the Word that transcends culture and circumstance, and is older than time!

It seems to me that Norman Maclean raises that question in his book A River Runs Through It. His book and Robert Redford’s movie about how A Presbyterian minister tries to teach his sons about life through fly fishing and spiritual wisdom. One son seems to find the truth, while the other refuses the guidance and help and remains a free-spirited son who drinks too much, lives too fast, and eventually loses his life in a back-alley brawl. The father tries, through the medium of fly fishing, to pass on to his sons the underlying, unchanging values of his life. Maclean recalls one streamside exchange with his father: “‘What have you been reading?’I asked. ‘A book’, my father replied. It was on the ground on the other side of him. So I would not have to bother to look over his knees to see it, he said, ‘A good Book’. Then he told me, ‘in the part I was reading it says the Word was in the beginning, and that’s right. I used to think that water was first, but if you listen carefully you will hear the words underneath the water’. ‘That’s because you’re a preacher first and then a fisherman’, I told him. ‘No’, my father said, ‘You are not listening carefully. The water runs over the words. Paul will tell you the same thing.’ I looked to see where the book was left open and knew just enough Greek to recognize ‘logos’ as the Word. I guessed from it and from the argument that I was looking at the first verse of John’ “. Mclean emphasizes that we can take the truth and try to help but it has to be received, not rejected. Mclean writes, “Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know are the ones who elude us. But we can still love them-we can love completely without complete understanding”.

In today’s message we are considering how in the last days, Christ’s Church will find itself living in the location where Satan’s throne is. The Church will be challenged by the world to accept the deception that the devil has pawned off as truth. Some will hold fast to the truth, while others will defect and forsake the Lord and Savior who saved them. Jesus comes, as the one speaking a sharp two-edged sword from his mouth, cutting through all the deception with His truth. Only those willing to welcome the word will be enabled to stand fast in a world where the devil is tampering with the scale of truth!

 Posted by at 2:44 pm

“Practicing what the years and centuries are saying against the hours.”

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Feb 032019

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Practicing what the years and centuries are saying against the hours.”  By:  Ron Woodrum

Someone, hoping to catch the witty cowboy entertainer Will Rogers off guard, asked him, “If you knew you only had 48 hours to live how would you spend them?” He responded, “One at a time!” Days, like hours, (and minutes and seconds for that matter), must be lived one day at a time. A cleaning lady was once heard telling her customer-“the problem with life is that it’s so daily!” Howard Hendricks used to say, “The problem with the Christian life is that it is so daily!” There is truth to that. The children of Israel grew “weary” of the daily manna from heaven. We become weary with our daily gifts of 24 hours from God. We take them for granted and miss out on their intended fullness. Ralph Waldo Emerson used to say “If the stars only came out one night a year, we would stay up all night to look at them!” But because they are daily we take them for granted. That being said, there is a special opportunity to embrace the Christian life being “so daily” and making it “Really Daily!”…by making sure that it is lived to the fullest intention of God! Otherwise we might be wasting our days instead of living them. Again, Emerson was convicting at this point. He said, “You cannot kill time without injuring eternity!” The challenge before us as Christians is to live one day at a time with the measure and meaning God intended, In his book For The Living Of These Days, William Elliott Jr. observes, “The reason why so many of us are overwrought, tense, distracted and anxious is that we have never mastered the art of living one day at a time. Physically we do live one day at a time. We can’t quite help ourselves. But mentally we live in all three tenses at once-Past, Present, and Future…And that will not work! The load of tomorrow, added to that of yesterday, carried today makes the strongest falter!” He might be onto something…we see a lot of “faltering Christians“. Maybe it is because they have not yet mastered “the art of living one day at a time“. The Bible has much to say about the living out of our days. It reminds us “Our days upon earth are but a shadow” (Job 8:9). “Are thy days as the days of man?” (Job 10:5). Man that is born of woman is “few of days” (Job 14:1). It is no wonder Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom” (Ps. 90:12). The Bible gives us some wisdom as it discusses daily activities that will ensure that are daily lives are “Really Daily” from God’s perspective.

First of all our days are to have a Daily Code. The dictionary defines a “code” as a “systematic code of law“. For the Christian his Daily Code is of course the Word of God. Days not spent in the Word of God are days robbed of Divine Perspective and Purpose! One of God’s great servants used to call the Bible “The Kings Highway Code“. Others have called it “The Christians Road Map“. We all should keep a daily appointment to spend quality time in God’s Word. It should be read; it should be studied; it should be memorized; it should be obeyed; it should be shared DAILY! We read that the Berean Christians were First Century examples for us. “They received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures DAILY whether those things were so or not!” (Acts 17:11). Peter told the believers he was nurturing to “as newborn babies desire earnestly the sincere milk of the word that you may grow thereby” ( I Pet. 2:2). A baby’s number one desire, above all else, is for “milk“. They desire it daily…several times daily! That is the kind of appetite that God delights to see in His growing children. The nineteenth century British statesman William Gladstone echoed that sentiment when he spoke of Christians needing to spend time in God’s word. He said, “This great spiritual library shows me how to meet and overcome life’s temptations, sorrows, and oppressions. It furnishes me techniques for the mastery of fear, anxiety, and despair. The Word of God corrects my perspective, and saves me from being undone by the immediate. It gives me something which all of us need so much in these desperate days-the long view. It tells me-in Emerson’s words ‘what the years and centuries are saying as against the hours’ “We need that daily-OUR DAILY CODE!

The Psalmist points out to us another imperative “daily activity” to help us make our daily lives REALLY DAILY. He reminds us of our Daily Call. He writes, “LORD I have called out daily unto thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee” (Ps. 89:9). Asaph writes, “Offer unto God thanksgiving: and pay thy vows unto the MOST HIGH and call upon me in the Day of Trouble: and I will deliver thee and thou shalt glorify me!” (Ps. 50:14-15). I believe that every day should involve the daily call. Some call to the LORD as they start their day; others all throughout the day; others as they close out their day. Actually we are told to “pray without ceasing” meaning that our days should be filled with daily calls to the LORD, That is one thing the disciples learned about Jesus. He could not go long at all even during His busy days without “CALLING HOME TO THE FATHER“. One of the touching scenes in E.T. is the expression of his heart’s desire to “phone home“. That should be our daily heart’s desire. We are people of the Daily Call! One of the things I regret the most is that while living away from my parents that I did not call and talk to them more. Oh to be able to do that today! Don’t let your prayerlessness cause you to regret. Practice faithfully your Daily Call.

A third gem from the Book of Psalms reminds us of another Daily Discipline. The Psalmist writes, “So will I sing praise unto thy name forever, that I may perform my daily vows!” (Ps. 61:8). There it is-we have a Daily Chore. The dictionary defines a chore as “a small or odd job“. In his Devotional Book Daily Readings, W.E. Sangster tells of a shy Christian who sought the face of God for a way to minister by his life. God led him to have a ministry of encouragement by sending cards. Cards to those who were sick. Cards to the discouraged. Cards to the bereaved. Cards to family; cards to strangers; to people he read about in the paper; he heard about in conversations. His whole life took on a new twist. What a small insignificant thing to do. But only eternity will reveal the impact of that secret single daily chore of a dedicated servant of Jesus. Can you and I find some daily chore to vow to do for God? Seek His face. Make that commitment. Daily keep your vow! We have given our days some structure. A Daily Code; A Daily Call; A Daily Chore; now let’s go a little deeper. Jesus insisted that our Days must include our Daily Cross! Listen to Him as He says, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross DAILY, and keep on following me!” (Luke 9:23). We all have our own little interpretations of the “crosses we bear for Jesus“. But A.W. Tozer makes Jesus’ intention very clear…”we must recognize that the cross was the symbol of death; it stood for the abrupt, violent ending of if the life of a human being. The man who took up his cross and started down the road in Roman times had already said goodbye to family and friends. He was not coming back. He was not going out to have his life re-directed; he was going out to have his life ended! The cross made no compromises, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all of the man, completely, and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck swift and hard, and when it was finished, the man was no more!” So it is when you give your life to Jesus. Your life. Lived only for yourself, and for your interests, benefits, and desires, has been lost in His cause. To lose it, is to gain it. To try to keep it is to lose it all. Daily pick up your cross. Paul said, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). That is the essence of the Daily Cross. I love Elizabeth Cephane’s hymn/poem demanding nothing less. She wrote:

“I take, O cross, thy Shadow For My abiding place;

I ask no other sunshine than The Sunshine of His face;

Content to let the world go by, To know no gain or loss,

My sinful self my only shame; My glory all His Cross”


Lastly there is our Daily Care. Jesus had a daily burden. He said, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save them that are perishing” (Luke 19:10). Jesus invested His days as the Good Shepherd seeking the lost sheep. That was His Daily Care. It took Him into locations; into individual lives; into conversations with sinners, publicans, harlots, and demoniacs, not to mention lepers, and even criminals. On the cross hear him engage with criminals about heaven and the forgiveness of sin. We talk about the weather; about the Cubs winning the World Series; about our jobs; our families; our hobbies. How about our Savior? Daily? Stephan Olford tells about a converted cleaning lady named Aunt Sophie. After she found Jesus she used to say that she was “called to scrub and preach Jesus”. Daily, she engaged everyone she met about her Savior Jesus. Someone made fun of her saying that they saw her talking about Christ to a wooden Indian in front of the town’s Cigar store. Sophie heard about it and said, “Perhaps I did. My eyesight is not too good anymore, but talking to a wooden Indian is not as bad as being a wooden Christian and never talking to anybody about the Lord Jesus.” Something we are told to do daily, some of us never do at all ever! To make our Daily Christian lives Really Daily we need that Daily Code-Daily Call-Daily Chore-Daily Cross-and Daily Care. Don’t let today pass without them! If you do you are “killing your days-and injuring eternity!”

 Posted by at 2:47 am